Department of Energy creates cellulosic ethanol research centers

Cellulosic ethanol continues inching toward its time in the sun: the U.S. Department of Energy announced plans yesterday for three bioenergy research centers to open by the fall of 2009. Hoping to market new technologies within five years, the centers will focus on identifying microbes that can easily access cellulose in plants; current production of cellulosic fuel involves heat and acids, and the expense has stymied widespread use. The centers will also research genetic modifications that will encourage crops to give themselves up more freely to becoming fuel. The centers — located in Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Madison, Wis.; and near Berkeley, Calif. — will each have $125 million in capital and partner with various universities, labs, and private companies. The DOE also announced this week that it will be creating labs to design new wind turbine blades — and is no doubt getting much satisfaction from checking “care about renewable energy” off of its to-do list.